Radio host Leeann Tweeden’s apparently well-founded claim that Democrat Sen. Al Franken, the professional vulgarian and former comedian who has a long, well-documented track record of making crude remarks about sexually assaulting women, kissed and groped her without her consent, is sending shock waves through Democratic Party circles and the mainstream media.
President Trump, who himself has faced plenty of sex-related accusations, took to Twitter to mock Franken. Last night at 10:06 Trump tweeted, “The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?”
“And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?” he tweeted nine minutes later.
Franken has apologized profusely for wronging Tweeden but he has a history of faking remorse.
The Franken saga is the latest in a still-expanding mushroom cloud of allegations of sexual abuse hurled largely at left-wing elite media and entertainment figures. But politicians like Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, also stand accused of sexual improprieties. Republican Jeff Hoover resigned as Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives weeks ago after being accused of sexual harassment.
The dam burst wide open weeks ago when woman after woman after woman began accusing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and outright rape. Weinstein was forced out of his own company. Reverberations from the revelations continue to shake up the entertainment industry though it is unclear what the legal impact on Weinstein will ultimately be.
The problem, it appears, is more with left-wingers than conservatives.
Among left-wing media figures accused of sexual harassment or worse are: Lockhart Steele (Vox Media); Leon Wieseltier and Hamilton Fish (New Republic); Mark Halperin (NBC); Michael Oreskes (NPR, New York Times); Rick Najera (CBS); Jann Wenner, Matt Taibbi, and Mark Ames (Rolling Stone); and David Corn (Mother Jones).
Among entertainment industry figures accused of the same are: comedian Louis C.K.; actors Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, and Ed Westwick; Terry Richardson (fashion photographer); Chris Savino (Nickelodeon); Roy Price (Amazon Studios); James Toback (screenwriter, director); Eddie Berganza (DC Comics); Andrew Kreisberg (Warner Brothers); David Guillod (Primary Wave Entertainment); and Brett Ratner (producer, director).
The process set in motion by the endless Weinstein allegations seems to be causing a fascinating epiphany and outburst of historical revisionism on the Left.
At Vox, the verbose left-wing pontificator Matthew Yglesias now writes two decades after the fact that it was wrong for Democrats to let serial sexual predator Bill Clinton off the hook. His piece is titled, “Bill Clinton should have resigned: What he did to Monica Lewinsky was wrong, and he should have paid the price.”
Back then “[w]hat we should have talked about was men abusing their social and economic power over younger and less powerful women.”
The United States, and perhaps the broader English-speaking world, is currently undergoing a much-needed accountability moment in which each wave of stories emboldens more people to come forward and more institutions to rethink their practices. Looking back, the 1998 revelation that the president of the United States carried on an affair with an intern could have been that moment.
Whether this change of heart in leftist circles is sincere remains to be seen.
In the current case, model and broadcaster Leeann Tweeden complained in a blog post this week that in 2006 Franken groped her chest while she was sleeping and forcibly kissed her during a USO tour in Afghanistan before he became a senator representing Minnesota as a result of a tainted 2008 election Republicans say was stolen from them. The unwanted osculation left her “disgusted and violated,” she said. Tweeden also tweeted a photograph from the period that shows a mischievous-looking Franken grinning and touching her breasts while she is apparently unconsciousness.
Tweeden told Jake Tapper of CNN that incident 11 years ago left her "so angry, I was in disbelief."
"To this day I talk about it and my hand clenches into a fist," Tweeden said. The kiss was "persistent" and "uncomfortable."
Franken pressed Tweeden hard to practice the stage kiss for their performance and wore her down. She reluctantly agreed to it and Franken "puts his hand on the back of my neck and comes in so fast,” she said. “There was not finesse to it at all -- let's put it that way. And he just mashes his mouth to my lips. It was wet and he puts his tongue in my mouth and I push his chest away with my hands."
In her earlier blog post she wrote of the kissing incident, “I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time. I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.”
Franken promptly apologized Thursday, telling reporters, "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."
"The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women,” Franken said separately. “There's more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it's the only thing you care to hear, that's fine—is: I'm sorry.”
In damage-control mode, Franken said:
I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
But Franken's act of forced contrition to Tweeden isn’t worth much. After a previous incident when he apologized for his awful behavior he later admitted the apology was fake.
As a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” Franken was working on a skit that involved drugging and raping CBS reporter Lesley Stahl.
“'I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then when Lesley is passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.' Or ‘That’s why you never see Lesley until February.' Or, ‘When she passes out. I put her in various positions and take pictures of her,’” Franken was quoted saying in a 1995 New York magazine article.
But in his recent book, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, he wrote that he faked the apology so he wouldn’t mess up his political career.
“To say I was sorry for writing a joke was to sell out my career, to sell out who I’d been my entire life,” he wrote. “And I wasn’t sorry that I had written Porn-o-Rama or pitched that stupid Lesley Stahl joke at 2 in the morning. I was just doing my job.”
“I learned that campaigns have their own rules, their own laws of physics, and that if I wasn’t willing to accept that, I would never get to be a senator,” he added.
“Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive," Franken wrote in his statement yesterday. "But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and a chorus of Democrat senators playing up to their voting base are demanding an ethics investigation into Franken’s conduct. But there aren’t too many Democrats demanding he resign from office.
With a Franken probe, this means two sitting Democrat senators are now facing ethics investigations in Congress. After a jury deadlocked in the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey yesterday, leading the judge to declare a mistrial, McConnell called on the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Menendez. Menendez "is one of only twelve U.S. senators to have been indicted in our history. His trial shed light on serious accusations of violating the public’s trust as an elected official, as well as potential violations of the Senate’s Code of Conduct," McConnell said.
Complicating matters for Franken, the senator is fine with denying others proper due process when they face sex-related misconduct allegations.
Franken “is a major proponent of Title IX policies that would get college students in trouble and strip them of due process when facing investigations for the exact same kind of misbehavior he seemingly committed,” tweeted Robby Soave of Reason magazine.
U.S. Department of Education rules created by the Obama administration encouraged the creation of kangaroo courts to try college and university students, overwhelmingly men, for sexual misconduct. Accused students were generally presumed guilty and the appallingly unfair panels passing judgment on them denied them due process by applying the relatively weak civil law standard of the preponderance of evidence, instead of the tougher “beyond a reasonable doubt” criminal law standard. In September, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the Obama policy and issued guidelines encouraging schools to adopt a stronger “clear and convincing evidence” standard.
Nobody expects the Senate to do much of anything to Al Franken. He won’t be tried under the Kafkaesque system he supports for students.
But this orgy of left-wing hypocrisy is showing Americans what these people are really about.